Monday, August 23, 2010

Task 6: The story of Stuff - by Anne Leonard

The video The story of Stuff - by Anne Leonard, is about the cycle of stuff that everyday people are obsessed with. People always question what happens to stuff that you adore when the item isn’t in use. Anne Leonard says that “stuff moves through a system Extraction, Production to Distribution to Assumption to Disposal which is the Material Economy”. People take this process for granted, buying items for their own pleasure, but not really considering the after affect of the item, when it is no longer a wanted item or a new craze.

Throughout Anne Leonard’s years of research of the process of an item from use to disposal, it is a system in “CRISIS”. The linear definition of the cycle of an item doesn’t correspond with our finite planet. Each process of the cycle doesn’t explore the effects it has on the planet, but hides it. This influenced my understanding of the true life cycle of an item and the effect the disposal of the item has on the environment. Each process of the cycle of an item does have great effects on the environment, from the process of manufacturing to the land fill were the item ends up. From this it emphasises the importance of recyclability, people need to be aware of the effects an item has on the planet.

Anne Leonard has gone back to the beginning of the cycle and further explored that some people have more effects than others, especially the government and corporations. These particular people influence the choices people make and therefore the amount of money people are allowed to spend in order to live but also place boundaries, limit things that they can do. From this I have discovered that these people who have a high authority over others therefore should have the responsibility of looking after us and the planet.

The first step, Extraction is the resource of materials which have a great impact on the planet. People are cutting down trees, mountain sides and using large amounts of water which affect the ecosystems in the environment. This part of the process explores the high consideration of materials for the product but disregards the life built from animals in the environment. People are using more materials than the environment can reproduce. We as a society have to be aware of the consumption of material use. America is using 30% of the natural resources which creates 30% more waste. We have to use a fair amount of natural resources in the world, if we overuse we will not have any more resources left to use.

The second step, Production is where materials are processed. This has an effect on the environment, greatly due to the large amounts of energy that is consumed in the process and manufacturing of products as well as the transportation of the materials to the factories. This energy turns into fossil fuels, which are distributed into the planets air space polluting our air. Through this pollution it has a large impact on the internal components of our bodies, due to the combinations of chemicals and fumes distributed in the process of materials, which leads on questioning the responsibilities of the governments and cooperation’s on our health. It is said that the moving of factories to other states, isn’t suitable as it is not only effecting the air of that state but due to wind currents, blows straight back.

The third step, Distribution is the buying and selling of the products that contain chemicals. Anne Leonard indicates that we are not paying for the stuff we buy, but the paying of the product is coming from the effects the products have on the land and the people working in the manufacturing factories due to the deconstruction of the land. These effects have contributed to a cheap product, the cost of the product isn’t it true value but the real cost it has on the environment. This is the Exterminating Cost.

The fourth step, Consumption originated through the values society has come to want when in times of need or grief. Society is influenced to shop, as a way to get away from things (retail therapy); however this has influenced the wasting of products, as well as the demand of using more materials to create more stuff. In turn this amount of wasted materials creates unnecessary production of products as well as damaging effects on the environment. The idea of reuse is valued, but the idea of consumption designed by government wasn’t considering the health care or education of others but the consumption and wealth of the country. This consideration has caused large effects on our world now and has shaped people’s ideas of the environment with money.

Through the idea of obsolesces in products it is a ploy for people to be forced to buy the product after a certain period, which then increases the problem of waste and land fill. This obscene perception has also influence buyers to discard good working products due to the improvement and advancements of the new product as well as the trends and appearance of products. This idea is clever, but terrible in terms of the environment and the space the waste is placed.

Media is a contributor to the reason why consumers buy and discard products, as the fashion trends are important to consumers and therefore feel valued in society. However media hides and covers all the effects the product has on the environment when we are continuously discarding and buy new ones.

The last step of the process, Disposal, is the discarding of the unused products that society has bought. Our rubbish either is burnt and then thrown into landfills or just thrown into land fill, either way this has extreme effects on water, air and land. Something as simple as moving products from a home into the environment is harmful, as the products that sit in the ground and decompose let out chemicals and toxins that when first placed into the ground affects the plantation and growth of nature as well as the temperature of the world. One way to reduce the effects on the environment is recycling, but recycling will never be enough. On the other hand we now have people trying to produce using different processes and techniques to save the environment and at the same time still have a dynamic world of products.

Through this video I have discovered that each process has a vast effect on the environment which isn’t strongly seen in diagrams or understood by society and therefore, people aren’t aware of the actual harm it is having on the planet. Resent discovers from scientists and others, feel there is a great concern in the effects on the environment and they have come to the realisation that if we as a society don’t slow down the use of fossil fuels and electricity as well as the use of natural resources, the planet will be running low on these materials.

There is a strong mindset that is being encouraged that GREEN IS THE NEW IN. The idea of recycling and new processes of obtaining resources as well as reuse is encouraged and used. The use of awareness has helped people understand that the process of a product that we dearly love has a great impact even if it isn’t as noticeable to the eye as it is to the environment. This is the reason why Industrial Designer should see this video as an insight of what they are doing to the environment and encouraging the rest of us to do the same.

To see this video go to:

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